£250m super-prison to be built on ex-Firestone factory land

Welsh Secretary David Jones says the prison will being economic benefits to the area

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The location for north Wales' new 2,000-inmate super-prison has been announced by the Ministry of Justice.

The £250m jail will be built on the Welsh government-owned former Firestone site on the Wrexham Industrial Estate, creating 1,000 jobs.

The closure of four prisons - Reading in Berkshire, Dorchester in Dorset, Blundeston in Suffolk and Northallerton in North Yorkshire was also announced.

There are also plans to replace Feltham Young Offenders Institution in London.

In north Wales, two sites in Wrexham had been shortlisted for the new jail - both on the same industrial estate - but the owners of one of them said last week it was out of the running.

Start Quote

The construction of this much needed facility will bring with it considerable economic benefits for local businesses, and create up to 1,000 employment opportunities ”

End Quote David Jones MP Welsh secretary

The jail should be built by 2017 and worth £23m a year to the local economy.

It will be a Category C prison used for inmates who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who do not have the resources and will to make a determined escape attempt.

Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling said: "I can today announce that, following the assessment of several site options and subject to local planning approval, the new prison will be built on the former Firestone site in Wrexham.

"Work will begin on-site next summer with the prison fully operational by late 2017.

"The new prison will provide up to 1,000 much-needed jobs, great opportunities for local businesses and millions of pounds worth of construction opportunities.

"It also provides north Wales with its first ever prison, offering an opportunity for offenders from the region to be closer to their homes."

Earlier this week, the Howard League for Penal Reform said almost a quarter of all prisoners in England and Wales were kept in overcrowded cells in the year to April.

Figures showed about 19,140 inmates on average were made to share a cell designed for one person.

The closure of four prisons follows an announcement in January that six entire prisons were to shut plus one of the three amalgamated jails on the Isle of Wight.

Artist impression of  super-prison This is how the super-prison could look, according to artist impressions released by the Ministry of Justice
Artist impression of  super-prison The prison would be built on the site of the former Firestone tyre factory in Wrexham
Artist impression of  super-prison This is how the super-prison could look inside
Artist impression of  super-prison This is a prototype of how the super-prison could look - but the final details have not been finalised

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that jails held an average of just over 85,000 prisoners between April 2012 and March this year.

'Economic benefits'

Locations in London and north west England, including Cumbria, had also been in the running for the super prison.

But Wrexham's campaign to host the prison with the backing of other local councils in the region, paid off in June when the town was chosen.

Two potential sites were identified at Kingmoor Park and the former Firestone rubber factory site, both on Wrexham Industrial Estate, which already provides work for 10,000 people.

But the owners of Kingmoor Park said in August they have optioned a large section of its land to Wrexham Power, which hopes to build an £800m gas-fired power station.

It left the former Firestone site as the only other option for the prison.

The Welsh government said the 108-acre former Firestone site - supported by First Minister Carwyn Jones - was acquired by the then Welsh Development Agency in 1994 and was prepared for development shortly after.

ANALYSIS by Dr Gareth Norris, criminology lecturer

Dr Gareth Norris

"Many of the older prisons in the UK are now outdated and in an unsuitable condition.

"We can see so-called super prisons in the United States and other large countries, although those set for the UK are not on the same scale.

"They are a way of making the whole prison system more efficient and over a long period costs will be cut.

"The prisoners in Wrexham are not going to be very dangerous and there's no evidence the prison will become an overspill for the large prisons in Manchester and Liverpool.

"People will not want a prison built next door to them and there will be opposition but unfortunately prisons are necessary in society.

"One of the advantages will be the jobs the new prison will create. It will obviously need prison staff but there will be ancillary benefits as well - a large workforce on site while the prison is built.

"There will also be the benefit of variety of prison services on site, such as rehabilitation programmes and back to work schemes. Often these services are dotted around various prisons and those conducting them have to travel. With this new prison all these services and staff should be on one site.

"Having a prison in north Wales will also make it easier for families in Wales to visit loved ones. We are harsh on people who commit crime but they have families and if they have children it can be difficult for them."

Dr Norris is based at Aberystwyth University

It has been on the market for employment use "for a number of years".

Welsh Secretary David Jones welcomed the announcement.

He said: "The construction of this much needed facility will bring with it considerable economic benefits for local businesses, and create up to 1,000 employment opportunities across the region.

"It will facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders by making them more accessible to their families, legal advisers and the probation service, enabling a smoother transition back into the community.

"It will also benefit prisoner welfare by allowing Welsh speakers more opportunity to speak the language in an environment where its cultural significance is understood."

First Minister Carwyn Jones said the announcement was a "big boost" for Wrexham.

"The current arrangements whereby prisoners from north Wales have to serve their sentences in England are far from ideal," he added.

"The Welsh government has long supported seeing a prison built in north Wales and I am very pleased that the benefits of having a prison in Wrexham have been recognised by the UK government.

"We will work closely with the Ministry of Justice, local authorities in north Wales and other partners to ensure its success."

It is not the first time a prison for north Wales has been considered but the Ministry of Justice dropped plans for a jail in Caernarfon in 2009.

Map showing prison closures and openings

Prisons closures and openings

Name of prison Status since 2010 No. prisoners held

Ashwell, Rutland

Closed

211

Brockhill, Redditch

Closed

184

Bullwood Hall, Essex

Closed

221

Camp Hill, Isle of Wight

Closed

566

Canterbury, Kent

Closed

295

Gloucester, Glocs

Closed

290

Kingston, Portsmouth

Closed

175

Lancaster Castle, Lancaster

Closed

236

Latchmere House, London

Closed

193

Shepton Mallet, Somerset

Closed

189

Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Closed

305

Wellingborough, Northants

Closed

482

Blundeston, Suffolk

Closure announced 4 Sept 2013

526

Dorchester, Dorset

Closure announced 4 Sept 2013

291

Northallerton, N Yorks

Closure announced 4 Sept 2013

252

Reading, Berks

Closure announced 4 Sept 2013

320

Dartmoor, Devon

Closure planned (no date)

659

Morton Hall, Lincs

Converted to immigration removal centre

392

The Verne, Dorset

To be converted to immigration removal centre

595

Total places lost

6,382

Thameside, London

New prison opened 2012

900

Oakwood, W Mids

New prison opened 2012

1,605

Wrexham, N Wales

New prison announced

2,000+

Parc (S Wales)

New houseblock (extension)

Peterborough, Northants

New houseblock (extension)

The Mount, Herts

New houseblock (extension)

Thameside, London

New houseblock (extension)

Total houseblock places

1,260

Others

180

Total places gained

5,945

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